November 1, 2012

Officials address storm issues at community meeting in Avon

By ANNE C. BOWERS

Dare County, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative officials met with residents today in a community meeting, hosted by the Avon Volunteer Fire Department, to address recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

Dare County commissioners Allen Burrus and Warren Judge, county manager Bobby Outten, Susan Flythe from the CHEC, and Sterling Baker, division maintenance engineer for NCDOT addressed 165 attendees and answered questions.  Many subjects were covered in the meeting which lasted an hour and a half.

Susan Flythe reported that there were no signs of damage to the main transmission line on Hatteras.  There was a little concern for one pole at Mirlo Beach because of its proximity to the ocean.  There were some small problems around the island, which were being fixed as they were found.

“Please be thankful that the transmission lines held,” said Flythe, and her comment drew an enthusiastic applause from the crowd.  Most of the island didn’t lose power during Sandy.

County manager Bobby Outten said that Sandy was a huge storm that went on for a long time, but it wasn’t as damaging as Irene.  Early estimates put storm damage to Dare County at $13 million with Kitty Hawk being the worst hit.  There were 400 homes damaged in the county, eight destroyed and 50 that are uninhabitable.  All damage was from ocean storm surge.

The dune loss was substantial.  Much of the area north of the temporary bridge on Pea Island had the dunes knocked down by the ocean, and sand covered the road.  Authorities expect that that Highway 12 is intact underneath the sand, which is 3 to 6 feet deep.  Clearing the road will take time.  Crews will be working from about 6 a.m. until about 8 p.m. daily.

Problems have been discovered with the Pea Island Bridge, which went underwater during the storm.  The bridge itself is reported to be sound, but both ramps on and off the bridge have been undermined.  Sand was scoured out from behind the wall underneath the bridge and DOT officials are not sure how it will be repaired.  The southbound lane leading off the bridge has also been undermined.

Outten estimated that is will take about 3 weeks to repair these problems.

The Bonner Bridge also sustained damage at the hand of Superstorm Sandy.  A railing came loose near the catwalk on the south end.  Fortunately, it was only a screw that came loose.

There is a maintenance issue on the north side of the Bonner Bridge with the section of bridge that was knocked out in October 1990 when a dredge hit the span.  This section is constructed differently than the rest of the bridge because it was patched in, Baker said.

According to Baker, the core slab in this section needs to be replaced.  The core slab is a stretch of blocks cemented together that measures 40-feet wide by 3-feet thick and has a thick steel cable running through it.  It’s the cable that needs tightening, and now is a good time to do it since the road is closed, he said.  It’s much easier and faster when DOT does not have to keep a single lane open for traffic.

The bridge will be closed for two weeks for this repair.

The entire bridge has been inspected by divers and with 3D sonar scanners and is said to be structurally sound.

“Scour wise, it’s adequate,” Baker said.

There was much of discussion about establishing a four-wheel-only route from the Bonner Bridge to Rodanthe.  Given the situation with the Bonner Bridge, this scenario is unlikely, officials said.

The emergency ferry service that runs between Rodanthe and Stumpy Point will make 10 runs a day and will continue until the road opens.  Beginning Friday, Nov. 2, restrictions will be lifted and everybody will be allowed to come onto the island.  

Demand for ferry is expected to be higher on weekends when visitors are typically traveling on or off the island.  Outten also noted that the early ferries are full.  Locals were urged to travel on weekdays.

Commodities, such as food and gasoline trucks, will receive priority loading.  Others will be boarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

There will be priority consideration given to people for medical needs, such as surgery or chemotherapy, but not to those who are going to a doctor’s appointment.

The county will be handling the collection of storm debris, not FEMA as with Hurricane Irene last fall.

“Push debris to the street and we will pick it up,” said Outten.  “Please, we ask for your patience.  It will take longer than in the past.”

Regular garbage pickup is back to the normal schedule.  Outten requested that if your street is not clear from storm damage to take your trash to the nearest open street.  Bagged trash will be picked up at the moment.

DOT’s priority is reestablishing travel on Highway 12 but will work on clearing or repairing side streets as soon as crews can.

All local government agencies have reopened since Sandy with the exception of Parks and Recreation, which will reopen Monday.

There are no changes in the early voting for next Tuesday’s election.  Early voting continues as scheduled at the Fessenden Center.

Persons needing recovery help or who wish to volunteer should call 475-5500 or 475-9320 in Frisco.

No evacuation was issued in advance of Superstorm Sandy for many reasons, according to Outten.  There were no hurricane force winds forecast, and there were not all that many visitors on the island.  The county did not expect to lose power or water.  

Given the incredible size of Sandy, which Outten likened to the size of the Gulf of Mexico, where would the visitors evacuate to – back into the path of the storm?  It was expected that there would be travel issues with Highway 12 but that can happen in any northeaster.

During this recent emergency, Outten said the county used all possible means to communicate with the public -- Twitter, Facebook,  the county website, e-mail, and radio.  The development of a Hatteras Island radio station is still moving forward.  

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